The Symptoms of Valvular Disease Of The Heart

Palpitation; heavy beating of the heart and shortness of breath, especially on slight exertion or excitement; active congestion of the lungs; congestion and torpor of the liver with jaundice; dropsy; distress in the region of the heart, in some cases angina pectoris; congestion of the stomach, causing dyspepsia; scanty and highly colored urine, sometimes bloody; murmurs.

The cause and nature of this disease cannot be well understood by the reader, without careful study of the structure of the heart. This we have described in another connection, which show one of the valves of one side of the heart, open and dosed. Various changes occur which are chiefly due to inflammation; the valves of the heart may become thickened and contracted, so that their function is performed very imperfectly. Two forms of impairment of the valves occur, one which prevents the blood from entering or leaving the cavities of the heart freely, known as obstruction, the other which prevents the complete closure of the valve, and so allows the blood to reenter the heart, after it has once been expelled from it, known as regurgitation. The results of valvular disease of the heart are those which have already been described as resulting from endocarditis.

The Causes of Valvular Disease Of The Heart

Rheumatism and pleurisy are the most common causes of valvular disease of the heart. Old age and syphilis are also productive of disease of the valves.

The Treatment of Valvular Disease Of The Heart

This disease is one which is by its nature rendered incurable. Nevertheless, much can be done to prolong the life of patients and to add to their comfort. The danger of sudden death is by no means as great as is generally supposed, as very few people suffering with this affection meet with sudden death in consequence of it. It is necessary that persons having valvular disease of the heart should carefully avoid overtaxation of the heart by overexercise, either mental or physical, particularly the latter. They should never indulge in running rapidly, playing games requiring vigorous exercise, or in any exercise whatever requiring violent exertion. All depressing influences, as the use of tea and coffee, tobacco, alcoholic liquors, and especially sexual excesses, should be scrupulously avoided.

Great care should be taken to avoid taking cold, to prevent liability to congestion of the lungs. The dropsy which occurs in the last stages of the disease should be treated by such measures as will excite vigorous action of the skin, as the hot-air and vapor baths, wet-sheet pack, and vigorous friction of the skin. A milk diet has been recommended for dropsy. It is generally insisted upon, however, that the patient shall take a dry diet. We think it a mistake to deprive the patient of fluids, as the blood is so thickened that the vital functions are in some cases interfered with. A moderate quantity of fluid should be allowed. Turkish and Russian baths should be interdicted to the majority of patients. This is especially true of the Russian bath This should never be taken by persons suffering from serious valvular disease of the heart. Persons suffering from rheumatism should give the disease prompt and vigorous attention, as it is one of the most frequent causes of the malady, and intensifies it by repeated attacks.